Friday, January 29, 2010

LowRes 2009 Movie Awards: Part 4, The Words and Vision

My look back at the best of 2009 (and my semi-sad fantasia of If I Had an Oscar Ballot) continues with a look at the ensemble and supporting acting categories.

Previously: 25 Best Moments; Worst Movies/Performances; Best Trailers; Best Supporting Actors

(500) Days of Summer
Crazy Heart
Jennifer's Body
Whip It!

This somewhat nebulous category encompasses skillful use of previously produced music -- 500 Days of Summer's harnessing of great songs by Regina Spektor and Temper Trap, and most importantly the genius repurposing of Hall & Oates; Adventureland's repetitive '80s pop oppression + tilt-a-whirl dance anthems; the bloodcurdlingly awesome decision to blast Hole at the end of Jennifer's Body -- or notable original songs like the authentic country in Crazy Heart.

Barry Ackroyd - The Hurt Locker
Lance Acord - Where the Wild Things Are
Eduard Grau - A Single Man
Anthony Dod Mantle - Antichrist
Eliot Rocket - House of the Devil

Some truly singular work, starting with the retro mood-setting of A Single Man and House of the Devil -- you couldn't find two more different movies, but both Grau and Rocket pulled off highly stylized aesthetics that manages to function beyond pastiche (A Single Man's style was divisive, but count me among those who were intoxicated by it). Ackroyd's camera didn't flinch and manages to capture the cracks in Jeremy Renner from impossibly close angles. Finally, I'm so happy Anthony Dod Mantle won an Oscar last year. Too many of the great cintematographers don't, for whatever reason. I only wish he'd won it for 28 Days Later ... or stood a chance in hell at being nominated for his showy but nonetheless profoundly malevolent work on Antichrist.

Click below for my picks for best score, screenplay, and directing...

Marvin Hamlisch - The Informant!
Brian Eno - The Lovely Bones
Clint Mansell - Moon
Abel Korzeniowski - A Single Man
Karen O, Carter Burwell - Where the Wild Things Are

Hamlisch's genre-hopping work in The Informant perfectly captured the sense that Mark Whitacre keeps directing the movie of his own life as he continues to vamp well past the point of credibility. The music in The Lovely Bones was probably the one purely successful thing about it. Mansell remains one of my very favorite composers, here choreographing a dance with Sam Rockwell's solitary (and not quite solitary) man. Korzeniowski's mood-setting music was heavy-handed but pleasingly so. And the combination of Karen O and Carter Burwell was so self-evidently amazing you just KNEW they'd be DQ'd from the Oscar race.

Greg Mottola - Adventureland
Dave Eggers, Vendela Vida - Away We Go
Lynn Shelton - Humpday
Duncan Jones, Nathan Parker - Moon
Michael Haneke - The White Ribbon

The Original Screenplays are generally where I flip for new talent, indie audaciousness, or story-centered movies that maybe don't have enough visual flair to elevate them in the other categories. Those attributes apply to all of the scripts here, besides The White Ribbon. That one's here for being a satisfyingly rich character puzzle where a moralistic parable might have been. I'll defend Away We Go and its hipster, some might say smug, affectations because it ultimately delivered an emotionally honest story about home. Humpday remained improbably hilarious and sweet, even if I dock it ever so slightly for being kind of a pussy by the end. Adventureland gets aimlessness exactly right and gives each of its characters enough room to strike a chord or two. Moon is more playful than you'd expect, and in possession of great intelligence and curiosity, each "what if?" taking us around another narrative corner.

Jesse Armstrong, Simon Blackwell, Armando Iannucci, Tony Roche - In the Loop
Wes Anderson, Noah Baumbach - Fantastic Mr. Fox
Geoffrey Fletcher - Precious
Spike Jonze, Dave Eggers - Where the Wild Things Are
Shauna Cross - Whip It!

In the Loop felt so fresh and unforced and baseline hilarious, I could hardly believe it wasn't an original creation. Fantastic Mr. Fox managed to marry Anderson's low-key conversational style with Dahl's classic characters. Precious committed to the story fully -- a story, if I recall correctly, that was based on the novel Push by Sapphire. Whip It! had incredible amounts of heart and absolutely refused easy caricature, with the most extraordinary example being the generosity shown to Marcia Gay Harden's character. And I was absolutely in love with how much story Jonze and Eggers managed to add to Wild Things while retaining the story's minimalism.

Wes Anderson - Fantastic Mr. Fox
Kathryn Bigelow - The Hurt Locker
Cary Fukunaga - Sin Nombre
Spike Jonze - Where the Wild Things Are
Quentin Tarantino - Inglorious Basterds

I hesitate to get too far into these choices here before I discuss my Top 10 movies of the year, so let's talk about the people. I'm super crazy excited for the upcoming career of Cary Fukunaga, whose Sin Nombre suggested a grounded and empathetic filmmaker who isn't flashy but also doesn't just rely on bleak imagery either. (He's got a Jane Eyre adaptation in the works with Michael Fassbender attached; not to be confused with Fish Tank's Andrea Arnold and her Wuthering Heights adaptation with Michael Fassbender attached.)

I have a whole pissy spiel on deck about how I'm really tired of hearing Fantastic Mr. Fox raves tiresomely peppered with backhanded shots at Wes Anderson's live-action movies. The exact same things that make Fox wonderful also make The Royal Tenenbaums and The Darjeeling Limited wonderful. You won't sprout hipster wings if you admit it.

Tarantino and Bigelow will both see their top-notch work this year met with Oscar nominations, and rightly so. How the Academy is prepared to get so cool I'm not entirely sure, but nobody breathe too hard or we'll ruin it. Meanwhile, Spike Jonze does the best work of his career, risked making a divisive movie out of a children's classic, and won't even sniff the Kodak Theater. Which makes total sense if you've followed the Oscars even a little bit, but whatever.


JA said...

"(He's got a Jane Eyre adaptation in the works with Michael Fassbender attached; not to be confused with Fish Tank's Andrea Arnold and her Wuthering Heights adaptation with Michael Fassbender attached.)"

I love the future.

Joe Reid said...

Is the future when you've got tawdry thoughts in the works with Michael Fassbender attached?

Julia said...

Good picks Joe! I was kind of hoping Michael Giacchino would make into your score category for Up! or Star Trek, but other than that you're good ;)

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately Michael Fassbender was replaced by Chuck Bass, er, Ed Westwick. To say it's disappointing is an understatement.

Anonymous said...

oops, forgot to put in Wuthering Heights. he's still attached to Jane Eyre

Joe Reid said...

See, I thought the Fassbender talk came after the Westwick talk. Nothing's set in stone yet right?

Anonymous said...

I remember it was the other way around because what little interest I had in Wuthering Heights (a book I never really liked) fizzled when I read that Westwick replaced Fassbender. But yes, nothing's set in stone yet.